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Furthering USC Gould’s Investment in Public Interest

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Summer stipend program supports students pursuing public interest law.

By Leslie Ridgeway


Board members of Public Interest Law Foundation (PILF).

This year, a record number of USC Gould School of Law students – 140 in total – expressed interest in pursuing a summer position in public interest law. With this increased interest, however, comes the need for additional funding to support those who assume these vital positions.

In recognition of the important social contributions that students make as part this work, USC Gould Dean Andrew T. Guzman announced that the law school will provide a guaranteed summer stipend to all 1Ls and 2Ls who pursue qualifying public interest work beginning in summer 2020.  To formalize and fully fund this school-wide effort, Guzman has made it a priority for the Gould development and alumni relations team to collaborate with student leaders, as well as Public Interest Law Foundation (PILF) alumni and friends, to raise funding to help the law school meet the increased demand. 
 
“Thanks in part to new Gould initiatives such as the Public Interest Scholars program, the Public Interest Certificate and the Public Interest Mentor Program, and thanks to the continued terrific work by PILF leadership, we have seen an increase in the number of students interested in public interest summer jobs,” Guzman says. “This increase in student interest and participation brings with it an increase in cost. With the anticipated support of our alumni, USC Gould is excited to offer summer stipends for qualifying public law work. This is part of our longstanding commitment to public interest work and improving the justice system.”
 
Those interested in contributing to public interest student stipends are encouraged to contact Assistant Dean of Development Margaret Kean at: mkean@law.usc.edu

Tradition of Service and Support

In 1987, the PILF student organization was formed at USC Gould to generate interest in nonprofit work among students and to raise funds for their summer stipends. Shortly after its founding, this work was generously supported by Audrey and Sydney (JD 1955) Irmas, who were the first to establish an endowment fund that produces annual income for summer grants. Since then, other alumni have joined the effort and supported the grants through annual donations and additional endowment funds.

In addition, student fundraising played a key part in supporting summer grants, with PILF traditionally holding fundraising events for the summer grants. And each year, the law school provided additional resources to close the gap between these funds and the total cost of supporting 25-30 students in their summer public interest positions. 
 
“This commitment is a landmark decision and historic for Gould,” says student Mirelle Raza, PILF president. “It will allow our public interest students to participate in their work and not have to worry about taking out additional loans. The benefits of this go beyond the Gould community as our law students will be providing legal aid to the most vulnerable population.”
 
Since PILF was founded, USC Gould students have gained valuable experience while working in nonprofit and government positions. These have included Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, Mental Health Advocacy Services, Disability Rights California, Western Center on Law and Poverty, Public Counsel, Bet Tzedek Legal Services, Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project, Children’s Law Center and many others. Some students established a career in public interest law while others found ways to give back through their firms’ or businesses’ pro bono work.
 
Dean Guzman and PILF leadership are in the process of finalizing the qualifying criteria. Requirements are not anticipated to change significantly from previous years, with the requirement of 25 pro bono hours expected to remain the same.

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